Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Beasts of Burden - Animal Rites by Evan Dorkin and Jill Thompson

This book was recommended to me by a friend and I'd like to start by thanking him. Beasts of Burden was totally worth it and I'd keep on reading if only there was more of it in my shelves. This comment was wrote a few months ago but I decided to come back to it to try and recall what I feel about it now and publish it here.
Now to speak of the book itself, I'll start by saying this isn't your everyday children's fable, far from it, and for me that's the first good thing about it. And to think it all started as a short story for The Dark Horse Book of Hauntings. To give you a short and as unpoiling as possible description of Beasts of Burden - Animal Rites, it's about a group of dogs and one cat that live on Burden Hill, talk to each other like regular friends and before long are running from and fighting the likes of witches, zombies and other typical horror stories' creatures. And yes, there are wise magical dogs and the witches have black cat familiars. While you follow them on these adventures, the author takes you on a tour about friendship, heroism and self-preservation, racism, responsability and dealing with consequences and suffering. Of course, these themes are only slightly explored in so little time, but you can feel the potential of this set-up. Then there are details that make the reading experience so much better: the personalities matching the species, races and even names of the characters, the chapters' names reminding you of famous fantasy or horror books - "Something whiskered this way comes" - the way they all talk about humans, the fact that they have their own religion and much more. 
If Evan Dorkin did his job well, what can I say of Jill Thompson? The illustration makes the story work, but more than that, sometimes you just feel like checking the artwork for itself, some pages are literally out of this world. Even the lettering here was perfectly adapted to the context and the drawing.
All in all an awesome book, recommended for all who don't mind talking cats and dogs of fun and games. Just don't let young children read it before bedtime or you might be in for a rough night. Give it to them the next day and be sure to check it out yourself beforehand, you won't regret it!